Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler lead Bengals group of offensive FAs

With the Cincinnati Bengals' 2016 season over, their focus now turns to putting together their 2017 roster.

Here's a look at the offensive players who could become free agents in March.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth: Whitworth, 35, has spent his entire career with the Bengals and most recently signed a two-year extension worth $9.2 million. Whitworth may be the oldest tackle in the league, but he remains one of the NFL's best pass-blockers.

Because of his age, he would likely get only a one or two year contract but would still command at least an average of $9-10 million, which is now below market for a top left tackle. If the Bengals won't pay it, some other team surely will.

Whitworth said he wants to stay at left tackle. With the state of the Bengals offensive line, he's a must re-sign.

"I don't think any left tackle in the league pass protects better than I do," Whitworth said. "I think I'm right there with all those (top) guys. Are they younger and all those good things? Yeah, but that's really it."

He added" "I'm open to anything and everything. I want to play football."

Right guard Kevin Zeitler: Zeitler's good season probably flew under the radar because he played next to a struggling Cedric Ogbuehi at right tackle for most of the season. He still commanded enough respect to be named a Pro Bowl alternate.

Zeitler played out the year on his rookie fifth-year option, which paid him $8 million this season. He's only 26, so there would be no reason why the Bengals don't give him a long-term deal, unless they simply get outbid.

Zeitler said there have been no talks between the Bengals and his agent this season, but he's hopeful to be back if it works out.

"I haven't talked to anyone, I haven't heard anything, so I can truly say I have no idea what that situation is right now," he said.

Wide receiver Brandon LaFell: LaFell would admit that he had a quiet period in the middle of the season, but he had three solid games to end the year, earning an extra $500,000 in contract incentives in Week 17.

LaFell finished with 64 catches for 862 yards and six touchdowns. He was a solid addition to the receiving corps.

Rookie Tyler Boyd plays mostly out of the slot, while rookie Cody Core is coming along but still has a long way to go. LaFell seems like a simple re-sign for a receiver that can play outside on the opposite end of the field as A.J. Green.

Running back Rex Burkhead: Burkhead showed what he could do after Giovani Bernard went on the injured reserve with a torn ACL. He averaged 4.6 years-per-carry and scored two rushing touchdowns in the season finale. He also caught 20 passes for an average of 8.6 yards-per-reception.

However, it would be a hard sell to retain Burkhead if the backfield remains the way it is. With Jeremy Hill as a starter and Bernard as the change of pace back, there's not room for Burkhead to have a starting role.

Burkhead proved he could have a bigger role somewhere, but unless the Bengals decide to make a change to their other two running backs, it would seem like a longshot for him to remain in Cincinnati.

Tackle Eric Winston: Winston rotated with Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher this season when the two second-year players struggled at right tackle.

Winston, 33, is a backup, but he's also one of the leaders on the offensive line. The Bengals could re-sign him with minimal cap implications if they give him a one-year deal at the veteran minimum ($1,000,000 for 2017). That would trigger the veteran minimum cap benefit, where Winston earns his entire salary but only counts $695,000 against the cap.

Running back Cedric Peerman: The Bengals refer to Peerman as the quarterback of their special teams unit. He missed a significant amount of time this season with a broken forearm, and Burkhead stepped in to fill his role. Burkhead will also be a free agent, so it would seem likely the Bengals would try to retain Peerman for the veteran minimum.

Kicker Randy Bullock: Randy Bullock seemed to be the only available kicker the Bengals were targeting after Mike Nugent's struggles, and it would make sense that he gets re-signed and brought to training camp, at minimum.

Bullock won't have the long leash that Nugent did, however. Should he re-sign with the Bengals, he's going to have to earn his spot via a competition, whether that's against another free agent kicker or a draft pick.

“I think we are up in the air right now," Lewis said of the kicking situation. "I know Randy has ability and talent, but yes, we will have a competition. We cannot go through what we went through this year."


Center T.J. Johnson: Johnson, a 2013 seventh-round draft pick, seems unlikely to be tendered as he has only been a backup to this point. He played mostly on special teams this season but started in place of an injured Clint Boling in the season finale. Even without being tendered, he seems like a player who would potentially be back next season.


Running back Tra Carson: Carson spent most of the season on the practice squad, so it's hard to say what the team thinks of him. But it would be no risk for them to tender him, or offer him a one-year contract at the minimum salary. Carson would be a good developmental player to keep around.

Guard Trey Hopkins: Hopkins has been mostly a practice squad player up to this point but because the nature of an exclusive rights free agent contract provides minimal risk to the team, it seems likely they would extend an offer.